The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Never Become Lazy and False Genius During War

The Germans had created one of the strongest ciphers of seen with the invention of the enigma. If they had kept standard practices and routine shifts in keys the cipher would have been impossible to decipher. The Germans originally planned on continued randomization of the day keys and plugboard settings. As the war went on, the randomness decreased and they began to use the same day keys and with more of a pattern. The Allied forces were able to build on the Polish achievements and spot these patterns, or cillies as they called them. Often times the same key would be used repeatedly just for the sake of easiness, disregarding the need for more security.

Another point of weakness in the German enigma was that methods in which they believed made their machine more secure actually made it easier to decrypt. Their idea that never making a swap between adjacent letters actually eliminated two possibilities on the plugboard. Also, never allowing a scrambler to be in the same spot two days in a row made sure that the same number was never repeated or that a scrambler was never in the same place twice. The codebook compilers reduced by half the number of possible scrambler arrangements as stated in The Code Book. This greatly reduced the combinations that codebreakers at Bletchley Park had to attempt.

The Germans had an impenetrable cipher that was flawed with human error. The Allieds Tipex and SIGABA ciphers both went unbroken throughout the entire war due to their increased complexity and diligence with sticking to proper protocol.


Navajo Code Talkers -- Beyond Encryption


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1 Comment

  1. mcraewc

    I agree with the case that the blog poster presented for Germany’s overconfidence in the Enigma ultimately leading to their loss in the cryptography war.

    One specific aspect I would like to expand on, is in regards to sticking to protocol. The author of the blog post stated that a lack of randomization in regards to the day keys was an example of Germany simply being lazy and believing the code would never be cracked; they did not follow protocol. I definitely agree, however, I also would like to point out that it was their very protocol that led to the code initially being cracked. If the Germans had not included the key, written twice at the top of every message they sent, it is possible that the Enigma would have taken much longer to solve. This protocol in itself showed the lack of fear they had in the solution to their code ever being found. Even in the era in which the Vigenere Cipher was considered undecipherable, I find it very hard to believe anyone would have the confidence to write their key at the top of the message two times.

    Another aspect that I agree on is the statement the poster made about the SIGABA cipher going “unbroken throughout the entire war due to increased complexity and diligence.” I would like to bring to attention though, that an extremely complex cipher can become almost unusable. This occurred in the case of the SIGABA cipher and is the primary reason for the United States having to adopt Navajo Code Talkers. The SIGABA cipher was simply not ideal for the conditions of the war because of the time needed on both the end of the cryptography and cryptanalysis.

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